Steel executive says manufacturers face challenges [The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio]By Jim Mackinnon, The Akron Beacon Journal, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Information Services
July 12--CLEVELAND -- As the global economy still struggles in the aftermath of the Great Recession, manufacturing still matters in the United States and elsewhere, a top executive of steel maker ArcelorMittal said Wednesday.
Louis Schorsch, chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal's Flat Carbon Americas segment and a member of the parent corporation's top Group Management Board, opened the two-day "Making It Here 2012" conference, covering manufacturing and energy issues, at Public Auditorium.
Schorsch said the world still needs to address global climate change by finding ways to reduce greenhouse emissions created largely -- about 90 percent -- by energy and also land use.
And much more work needs to be done to fix the ongoing economic and human damage created by the Great Recession, he said.
Schorsch was the keynote luncheon speaker as about 200 attendees from 25 states gathered to network and learn about the latest so-called clean manufacturing initiatives in natural gas, wind, solar, energy efficiency and transportation.
Tracy LaMar-Nickoli, program coordinator at Columbus (Ohio) State Community College's Center for Workforce Development, said she came to the conference to pick up on what skills and education workers will need in alternative energy manufacturing fields.
"Where is it going to take off, so I can see what can we do to get people up to speed on new and upcoming jobs," LaMar-Nickoli said.
Sylvan Shank, associate with business consulting firm Newry Corp. in Lakewood, said he came to Cleveland to scout alternative energy opportunities for an undisclosed Fortune 500 client.
"We're looking at material technologies they have," Shank said. "We're looking for technology trends, trying to understand what the big challenges are."
Challenges were a theme of Schorsch's keynote talk in which he said climate change remains "the mother of all environmental challenges."
But overly complex, comprehensive legislative initiatives, including complicated cap-and-trade endeavors, are failing or have failed to fix things and are very difficult to pull off, he said.
An essential part of fixing the climate change problem involves the combined "blue-green" forces of labor and environmental groups, Schorsch said. The BlueGreen Alliance Foundation is a key sponsor of the Cleveland program, along with GLWN.org and WIRE-Net organizations.
"Maybe we don't have to fix it all at once," Schorsch said. "We should make progress on the things we can make progress on."
The world still faces serious challenges following the near total collapse of the economy in late 2008 and early 2009, Schorsch said.
The U.S. remains imperiled by the upcoming "fiscal cliff" as well as high debt levels and the likelihood the nation "will be pounded by the demographics of our society," he said.
Manufacturers will be challenged but "I don't think it's all a doom and gloom story," Schorsch said.
Manufacturing still provides people a good entry into the middle class, he said. It also is a major source of research and development and innovation, he added.
Regulations forcing such things as better vehicle fuel efficiency and better building and manufacturing energy efficiency are creating a resurgence in manufacturing, Schorsch said.
Lower energy costs, largely through a resurgence in U.S. oil and natural gas led by fracking and deepwater drilling, also are playing a major role in helping manufacturers, he said.
Schorsch's recommendations included:
--Improving the economy by avoiding the fiscal cliff, by funding infrastructure and by regulating effectively.
--Adopting a more intelligent, pragmatic and gradual approach to addressing climate change.
--Making industrial energy efficiency the focus of policy initiatives in an era of fiscal constraint.
--"Beware the false prophets of tax reduction."
--Recognize that "things will still be made of things."
Beacon Journal business writer Jim Mackinnon may be contacted at 330-996-3544 or by email at email@example.com.
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